Schistura spilota

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Matt Clarke looks at a stunning loach that's recently arrived in the shops - Schistura spilota.

Scientific name: Schistura spilota (Fowler, 1934)

Origin: Believed to be endemic to streams in parts of Thailand.

Size: Quite a chunky loach that reaches just under 10cm/4" in length.

Diet: Bloodworms and other frozen foods are ideal, but these should also take tablets and granular foods once settled. Don't keep this species with anything likely to be considered food. One fishkeeper I know lost his spilota after it choked to death trying to swallow a Pangio shelfordii loach.

Aquarium: Probably best kept in a SE Asian river tank containing lots of smooth, water-worn cobbles and boulders to provide day time shelter. Add additional power filters or circulation pumps to make the water more turbulent. Should mix well with larger, fast moving species such as Devario or Barilius. As with other Schistura, provide plenty of hiding places and take care when mixing with other loaches - Schistura have a tendency to be territorially aggressive.

Identification: This fish was kindly identified for me by Heok Hee Ng. According to Maurice Kottelat's 1990 revision of the Indochinese nemacheiline loaches, S. spilota can be told apart from other members of the genus by its striking colour pattern, which consists of 7-10 dark round blotches along the lateral line and a number of morpomeristic features, including: 8 branched dorsal rays, 12 soft dorsal rays, eight soft anal rays, a complete or nearly complete lateral line, and a slender caudal peduncle.

Notes: This balitorid loach is one of about 167 species in the nemacheiline genus Schistura. It was originally described as Nemacheilus spilotus by Fowler in 1934, but is now regarded as a Schistura species.

Availability: This stunning Schistura is very rarely seen in the trade. These were photographed at Wildwoods in Middlesex in January. The same species has been on sale at a number of other specialist outlets in recent months.

Price: Prices for these range from about £7.50-15.00, depending on supplier and availability.